Sep 5, 2014

Idaho polygamous sect follower in plea deal over child injury offenses

Laura Zuckerman
September 3, 2014
Salmon, Idaho

(Reuters) - A follower of a breakaway Mormon polygamous sect who came under public scrutiny after eight boys were taken from his Idaho home in a police raid will plead guilty to child-injury offenses in a plea agreement, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Nathan Jessop was cited with three misdemeanor counts of injury to a child last month for confining one of the boys in a tiny furnace room as punishment for alleged misbehavior and for failing to report two teens as runaways after they fled his home.

Under the plea deal that must still be approved in court later this month, Jessop would serve 10 days in jail and two years of probation in the case, said Bannock County Deputy Prosecutor Ashley Graham.

Prosecutors say Jessop was the assigned caretaker of boys banished from their polygamous sect to a so-called repentance home on the outskirts of Pocatello in southeastern Idaho for alleged infractions of church rules such as criticizing plural marriage.

His job was to “reprogram” the teens for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and to remove them from a flock where they might compete with older men for young women wanted as wives, prosecutors said.

The parents of the teens had agreed to the arrangement and several had not spoken with their sons for several years, according to a police report after the raid.

The report said Jessop sometimes punished the children for alleged misbehavior by hitting them on the head with a stick and by forcing them outdoors in the winter for hours at a time and denying them food.

The children were taught at the home by another sect follower, Tammy Jessop, who told authorities the discipline of the church was severe but that members of the faith “need to be prepared to follow and conform to the rules.”

Of the eight boys, ages 13 to 17, seized from the home, two were placed in foster care and six others were returned to their parents, who are adherents of the FLDS sect led by imprisoned sex offender Warren Jeffs.

Jeffs, 58, is serving a life term plus 20 years in prison for his 2011 sexual assault conviction relating to what his sect called "celestial marriages" to two underage girls at a religious compound in Texas.

Nathan Jessop's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment after business hours on Wednesday.